Data Science Institute

Faculty Spotlight: Linda Clark

Linda Clark, newly promoted to Senior Lecturer of Data Science, has been the driving force behind DSI’s undergraduate education programs at Brown.

Linda Clark came to Brown in 2019 as a joint hire between the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning and the Data Science Initiative, with the task of creating the Data Science Fellows program and a Data Science Course Design Institute for faculty at Brown. She was also tasked with creating a core class for the new Data Fluency Certificate for undergraduates at Brown (DATA 0200, Data Fluency). She has been busy teaching and advising undergraduates and working with faculty to add data science to their curricula ever since. DSI is very pleased to announce her promotion to Senior Lecturer of Data Science, effective July 1, 2023. 

Dr.  Clark started her journey towards data science at Pennsylvania State University.  Among her initial roles were academic advising, directing student support programs, and serving as an Administrative Fellow to the Senior Vice President for Finance and Business. She started engaging in research related to underrepresented students and decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Higher Education. Upon completion of her doctorate, she obtained a faculty position in the department of statistics at Penn State. She described her role there as a social scientist who could translate statistical language to non-statisticians doing social science research: “I was specifically hired to come in and work at Penn State’s statistical consulting center and teach, because they needed someone who could work with social science researchers.”

Her ability to have a foot in two camps—statistical and social sciences—is a skill that she brings to her work at Brown. Her dual placement in Sheridan and DSI enabled her to continue to pursue both of her passions. 

Dr. Clark has found the atmosphere and community at Brown University extremely conducive to starting new programs and trying out new things, saying that Brown “really gives you the space to do things in a non-traditional way.” 

The Data Science Fellows program is an intergenerational model (based on Brown’s Writing Fellows program) in which students who have data science expertise are paired with faculty who need help integrating data science into their classrooms. Data Science Fellows work in a wide range of departments, from computer science to languages and social and political sciences. The program provides both students and professors the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new environment and skills, like learning project management skills, finding resources for complex tasks, and communicating with fellow academics from different fields. You can read about some of the Fellows’ projects here and here.

Dr. Clark has also become Director of Undergraduate Studies at DSI, overseeing the undergraduate Certificate in Data Fluency and serving as faculty advisor to the Data Science DUG. Designed for students who are not in computational or mathematical concentrations, the certificate enables students to gain understanding and skills in data science to a level where they can use data science tools and methods in their academic field or chosen career. The certificate operates as a secondary qualification to the student’s concentrations and broadens their job opportunities as a result. Dr. Clark is particularly proud of students who have gone to work using their new skills: from positions in start-ups to supporting exciting new non-profit organizations. 

Another project Dr. Clark has worked on at Brown is a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration with colleagues at Smith College and Valparaiso University to explore what data science is, particularly in the educational context. Because the field is relatively new, the current definition of Data Science is still amorphous. Dr. Clark and colleagues surveyed students of data science courses, instructors, and practitioners to distinguish the different skills involved in data science and the range of approaches to teaching it. Their work has been published here.